New Year celebrations in Victoria BC

December 21, 2015 by Martin Vernon

New Year celebrations in Victoria BC have two distinct opportunities to roll out the old year and welcome in the new. As well as the calendar year, the Chinese New Year is more significant here than in many cities.

Parties and dinners are everywhere in Victoria on New Year’s Eve. Just about every restaurant, pub, club and hotel offers its own brand of celebrations. The sheer variety is impressive: elegantly formal or casual, themed, live music, dancing, and dining options galore. Check with your bed and breakfast innkeeper.

The Chinese New Year on 8th February 2016 is heralded as the new moon rises. New Year celebrations in Victoria BC - the Chinese New YearIn the earlier years of Victoria BC the Chinese community established the oldest Chinatown in Canada as a centre for their community and trading. After a decline, today the influence of the Chinese continues more broadly within the Victoria area and the Chinese New Year is as important as ever. On 14th February, you’ll see cultural demonstrations, displays and parades including dances such as the famous Lion Dance (about 11.00am), all set within the character of Chinatown around Fisgard Street with the Gate of Harmonious Interest and little Fan Tan Alley. Incidentally, the superb Chinatown display at the Royal BC Museum will form the basis of special tours on 2nd, 9th and 11th February at 11.00am.

Victoria Classic Boat Festival

August 30, 2015 by Martin Vernon

The Victoria Classic Boat Festival sums up the best of Victoria rather well: a maritime tradition, vessels in the Inner Harbour, character and charm, tourism, and celebration. It promotes those warm fuzzy feelings that catch us by surprise as we enjoy a moment from our past (or imagined past). So from 4th to 6th September 2015 I’m going to wander around the boats in the Inner Harbour, soaking in the good feelings. Join me.

The Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend was established in 1977, inspiring the nautical community in Victoria to establish their own celebration of maritime heritage so in 1978 the The Victoria Classic Boat Festival was born. 32 boats participated that first year, now more than fourfold ranging from small motor vessels to tall ships. The festival website has many excellent photos illustrating the variety of fascinating vessels you will see.

The highlights will be on Sunday 6th September when the sailpast and classic sail race provide a spectacle from Ogden Point (by the Inner Harbour) to Clover Point, along the southern coast of Victoria. There are displays and demonstrations, live entertainment and food. Admission is free.

Victoria Dragon Boat Festival

July 30, 2015 by Martin Vernon

For 20 years the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival has brought a splash of colour to summers in the Inner Harbour of Victoria BC. Culture and energy combine, on and off the water, for three days of one of the liveliest festivals you’ll encounter.

On 14, 15th and 16th August 2015 catch the vibrancy in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, joining up to 80,000 others on the grandstands and along the harbour walls. Highlights are the energeticVictoria Dragon Boat Festival dragon boat races on Saturday and Sunday from 8.00am to about 4.00pm. The boats surge through the water as paddlers crouch forwards following the strokes of the leading pair. Like rowing, strokes are synchronised but unlike the flowing movement of sculls dragon boats rise up out of the water with each rapid stabbing stroke. At the front of each boat sits a drummer who sets the pace of up to 70 strokes per minute. Races are held in numerous categories over the 500 metre course.

The Cultural Stage presents musical headlining bands and the nearby Forbidden City Food Court offers cultural delights.

Associated with the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival is Lights of Courage at Ship Point in the Inner Harbour. By purchasing a paper lantern for $2 you support the BC Cancer Foundation. On the lantern tag write a message of hope, love, inspiration or remembrance and hang it with the array of others which are illuminated after 9.00pm. Since 2008 this has raised over $500,000.

Victoria International JazzFest

May 30, 2015 by Martin Vernon

The Victoria International JazzFest is one of those major festivals in Victoria which benefit from the strengths of the city’s music and of its tourism: one might describe this as supply and demand.

Musicians abound here in every genre since, I suppose, artists of all persuasions Victoria International JazzFestare drawn to the West coast lifestyle. They provide us with a rich source of pleasure which we share with the many visitors to Victoria. So events such as the Victoria International JazzFest are a natural outcome of this combination.

The 2015 festival runs from 19th to 28th June with a lineup of worldwide musicians who embrace blues and world music as well as jazz. Now in its 30th year, the JazzFest includes workshops and has over 300 musicians performing in venues throughout the city.

The organizers, The Victoria Jazz Society, also run the Vancouver Island Blues Bash in September, one of the many Arts events in Victoria of every imaginable style we can enjoy every year.

Swiftsure International Yacht Race

May 10, 2015 by Martin Vernon

Some major festivals are just perfect for their place – the Swiftsure International Yacht Race in Victoria BC is one of those. Driving around the Victoria area one spots thousands of boats: from masses of masts in the marinas to stored vessels on home driveways. People here love their boats.

The race began in 1930 with just six entrants, sailing to the lightship on Swiftsure Bank and back. Swiftsure International Yacht RaceThis year, the 72nd running of the Swiftsure International Yacht Race, about 200 entrants will contest four different races, the longest being 140 nautical miles typically taking boats 20 – 40 hours to complete. The currents and winds of the Juan de Fuca Strait are unpredictable, creating a challenge for the finest sailors from around the globe. One year over 100 boats were blown way off the course yet on others the races are referred to as “Driftsure”.

Victoria’s Inner Harbour is the place to be from May 23rd to 25th 2015. There can be plenty of drama but there’s always a great spectacle offshore and nautical events onshore. The Tourism Victoria Info Centre in the Inner Harbour can guide you as to when to be where for the best viewing.

The Magic of Christmas

November 20, 2014 by Martin Vernon

The magic of Christmas may bring childhood memories of candlelight and fire, tree and decorations, goodies to taste and, ooh, to unwrap. However, the Magic of Christmas is experienced every year at The Butchart Gardens by thousands of Victoria residents and visitors. My wife and I rarely miss it. It sets us up for our family Christmas.

This annual celebration of winter (a dusting of snow is possible) at the Gardens runs from 1st December until 6th January. Why 6th? The Twelve Days of Christmas is a theme running throughout the gardens and you hear people humming the song as they search for the sequence of the Twelve Days displays. So let’s spend an evening there.

On arrival there’s an immediate sense of anticipation. Even the entrance The Butchart Gardens - Italian garden at nightand parking areas are illuminated by pretty lighting. We first walk into Water Wheel Square which is transformed into an ice rink, but we want to see the lights so skating will have to wait until later. The Gardens has a recommended route so we follow this. Every few yards we see sights pretty, charming, captivating, delightful … . One wonders how many million bulbs (lights, not flowers) have been carefully placed. One year, early on the route, our children were enchanted by a flowing river of lights underneath a crust of snow. Yes, magical.

The initial view of the Sunken Garden always brings oohs and aahs. Oh for a better camera, I think. Do walk on a few yards to the little log cabin overlooking the old quarry; I adore it. Entering the Sunken Garden we are barely aware of being in a garden, it’s a panorama of lighting displays: under shrubs, within trees, even on the lake, culminating at the Ross Fountain with its constantly changing colours and swathes of jetted water. Then we take a break from the illuminated wonderland by entering a different wonderland, one which may take you back to childhood memories: the Rose Carousel.

An avenue of simply but effectively lit trees passes the concert lawn where my favourite Twelve Days display charms us everytime (you’ll have to visit to discover what it is) and then we walk under the arched avenue in the Rose Garden. The formal Star Pond and Italian Gardens draw us towards the piazza where we hear carol singers. The Dining Room and Blue Poppy restaurant are open but we’ve other thoughts: hot chocolate. The debate is always, should we take a spin (I write this metaphorically) or three on the ice rink first? Either way, we seat ourselves by the open fire in the coffee shop, drink in hand. Life’s good!

The Magic of Christmas at the Butchart Gardens

Victoria Lighted Ships and Trucks Parades

November 10, 2014 by Martin Vernon

Early every December there’s a colourful and sometimes noisy seasonal celebration downtown that always brings us pleasure and provides aid to local food banks. Ships glide gracefully across the Inner Harbour and an anything-but-graceful line of illuminated trucks honk their way through the streets.Victoria Lighted Ships and Trucks Parades It’s the Victoria Lighted Ships and Trucks Parades.

On 6th December we’ll be in the Inner Harbour enjoying macho trucks seemingly becoming big colourful toys full of life and fun. Collections are taken along the route for the Mustard Seed and Victoria Cool Aid Society. The trucks will be in the Inner Harbour at approximately 7.00pm. The parade is really two parades rolled into one since the charming Lighted Ships Parade coincides in front of the BC Parliament Buildings in its Christmas tree colours, setting sail at the same time. Now in its 25th year there’ll be 25 decorated ships leaving Ship Point where artisans will be presenting their wares for gift ideas at the Christmas Night Market. I’m told that Santa is expected to make an appearance.

Enjoy these sights and sounds in the Inner Harbour, help the homeless (bring some non-perishable food for the drop-offs), and pick up a hot chocolate or hot apple cider for yourself.

Victoria Wine Festival

September 10, 2014 by Martin Vernon

The Victoria Wine Festival was launched in September 2014 showcasing over 200 wines from around the world. Its success results in a two day festival for 2015 on 25th and 26th September. This international selection was made by local sommeliers to offer a wide range of wines from “everyday” wines to vintage bottles but, they say, “We want to focus on affordable wines that everyone can buy”. Some will be available for purchase at the festival.

Victoria Wine Festival
Savour the flavour at tastings and learn more about wines at seminars – see the Victoria Wine Festival website for ticket information. Even the long list of participating international wineries makes me salivate.

Whether you consider yourself a wine connoisseur or simply enjoy the fruit of the vine this promises to be an event worth visiting if you are in Victoria in September.

Victoria Chalk Art Festival

August 30, 2014 by Martin Vernon

You’re walking along a downtown street, window shopping with an ice cream in hand, when you stumble upon chalk art at your feet; it’s the Victoria Chalk Art Festival.

On 12th and 13th September 2015 Government Street, the principal shopping street of Victoria, will be transformed by this remarkable art at Canada’s largest chalk festival. Take a look at examples of work by chalk artists exhibiting their street art this year. Free art!

As someone who couldn’t draw the back of a bus I’ve never understood how someone can create a large scale work of art when working close up. I’m no Michelangelo! An example of this will be a related project taking shape in the nearby Royal BC Museum where a 3D creation, 20′ x 20′, will reveal itself over a five day period. Here is the equivalent from last year:

Victoria Chalk Art Festival

This years theme will be “Nature’s Spirits”, a celebration of art and wonder. Kids can create their own works of art in Langley Street by Bastion Square. Needless to say, entry is free so gaze and wonder.



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